Flash Forward – by George Fox

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The following article is by a colleague of mine, George Fox. George is a guru in all things web design and development and we’ve been working on a number of projects together this past year spanning the web with regards to intake, branding, conversion and usability. You can access George’s blog here for more insight: http://tigerfox.posterous.com.

Adobe Flash
Adobe Flash

In early August, one of my colleagues forwarded me an article on Read Write Web heralding Adobe’s open beta of Edge: a tool for creating animated web content in HTML, CSS and javascript. At the time I wrote:

I’ve been following Edge for the last year when teaser footage of it showed up on Adobe Labs. I’m sure it will eventually be pretty cool, but any talk of Flash’s death is greatly exaggerated. I have Edge on my (personal) laptop as well as Tumult’s Hype and used to have Sencha Animator. I don’t think there’s any danger of any of these replacing Flash for its breadth of mature programming capability, workflow or file I/O in the next few years. I do think that a vast majority of Flash banners, basic web animation stuff and interactive infographics will be replaced by HTML5/CSS3 alternatives. But deep stuff like games, applications and specialized front-end interfaces will require more than basic web technologies alone can deliver – at least until a competitively-priced robust, easy-to-author framework comes along.

FWIW, Adobe doesn’t have a spotless record when it comes to championing software…  Anyone remember PageMakerTypeManagerDimensions,
FramemakerAuthorWareLiveMotion or GoLive?

Yesterday, Adobe officially announced they were euphemistically “focusing” Flash on “PC Browsing and Mobile Apps.” In other words, they’re abandoning further development of the Flash Mobile plugin. The very same product that many said was Apple iOS’s biggest failing and the intractable Steve Jobs’ personal bugbear. Now many are saying perhaps he was right.

I stand by my assertion that Flash isn’t going away soon. The news about  Adobe abandoning Flash Mobile isn’t surprising – as far as I can tell they never got much traction with it anyway. But in line with what I said: as more “banners, basic web animation stuff and interactive infographics” are built in HTML/CSS rather than relying on plug-ins, Flash’s web usage will ebb. It’s not just Flash Mobile that will be affected. This change will affect PC browsing and hasten Flash’s obsolescence. Just browse the comments.

Besides the kneejerk overreactions, there’s so much anger and apprehension. Too bad Adobe can’t simply state that they want to make the best software available rather compromise on shoddy initiatives or all that ambiguous mumbo-jumbo about ‘increasing investment in HTML5’ and ‘delivering compelling web and application experiences.’ Flash may not be dead, but this will be seen as an epic fail.

Now is much like ten years ago when Flash became ubiquitous. The state of the web was shifting from static pages to interactive ones; from CD-ROMS to streaming media. Flash had a decent authoring environment and adapted to the programming challenges well enough, but never could keep up with the shift toward simple standards-based accessible content. Even now, the best it can do is act as a browser or mediator for such content. We don’t need that anymore. What we need are tools that help us take advantage of the advanced capabilities inherent in HTML and CSS. I don’t think it will be one of our current crop of word processors, page layout applications or IDEs. Whoever builds a scalable, efficient, capable authoring tool for HTML5 web applications may rule the next decade.

Oh and Silverlight, watch your back…

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